Tuesday 12 November 2019

Alleged rape victim endures two-hour trip because Dublin treatment unit was closed

Rotunda (stock photo)
Rotunda (stock photo)
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

An alleged rape victim had to make a two-hour round trip to hospital for treatment because a specialist treatment unit in Dublin was closed.

The incident occurred over the weekend when a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) in Dublin could not facilitate the rape victim being examined, the Irish Independent has learned.

The woman was brought to the Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar, which was the closest SATU. This meant the victim had to endure a two-hour round trip to Mullingar and back to the capital after the alleged sex attack.

The event has been described as "unacceptable" by Rape Crisis Network Ireland, which said it was not an isolated incident.

The woman was allegedly raped on Friday night in Dublin's north-inner city, and reported the matter to local gardaí the following day.

She was brought to the Rotunda's SATU on Saturday afternoon to undergo a forensic clinical examination.

However, it was closed as no specialist staff were available and gardaí then brought the woman to the unit in Mullingar.

Officers from Store Street garda station are investigating the alleged rape and no arrests have yet been made.

Clíona Saidléar, executive director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland, described the closure of the Dublin SATU as "unacceptable" and said proper rotas must be put in place.

"This isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened. The SATUs are dependant on a number of factors being available when they are needed - they operate on an on-call basis.

"There needs to be a full rota and support around it, because when there is stress on the system then there is a lack of availability," Ms Saidléar said.

"What happened [on Saturday] does occasionally happen where a person isn't brought to the nearest SATU and instead are brought somewhere else.

"Obviously it's distressing and unacceptable," said Ms Saidléar.

There are currently six SATUs in Ireland which provide specialist care for women and men aged 14 years and older who have recently been sexually assaulted or raped.

Dr Maeve Eogan, medical director of the Rotunda SATU, said staffing issues mean certain units aren't operational 24/7. Where a SATU is not open, it is covered by another unit.

"Like many areas there is an issue with staffing, a particular unit may be 12 hours out of period. Consequently there is a crossover to ensure that there are always trained personal available. [On Friday] the Rotunda covered Mullingar and on Saturday Mullingar covered the Rotunda, while [on Sunday] each were fully available."

There are plans to recruit more forensic examiners next year.

Irish Independent

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